By News-Argus Staff
Thanks to the management
of professional fisheries biolo-
gists such as Lewistown’s Clint
Smith, local reservoirs offer a
wide spectrum of options for
anglers. Smith is the biologist
for Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Region 4 office in Lewistown.
“This is going to be a great
year for fishing,” Smith said. “It
was a pretty good year, without
a lot of winter kill. We have a
reasonable snowpack. My only
concern is whether a little bit
lighter snowpack could affect
flowing water by late summer.
But overall, things are looking
good for anglers.”
Smith should know – he is
responsible for doing invento-
ries of fish numbers, species and
condition for the lakes, streams
and ponds in this area.
Generally, Smith said, stock-
ing of various waters is depen-
dent on the type of habitat and
what fish can be supported.
However, some stocking is done
primarily to support recreation-
“When we stock trout in res-
ervoirs, we know habitat condi-
tions are not present to allow
them to reproduce,” Smith said.
“Trout need flowing water for
reproduction. So lake and pond
stocking is done for either ‘put
and take’ or ‘put, grow and take.’
Unless the trout can goupstream
or downstream and find habitat,
they are not going to repro-
On the other hand, fish such
as largemouth bass and crappie
are expected to naturally repro-
duce. Different fisheries are
stocked with what biologists
determine to be the right mix
for sportsman and the habitat.
“What we’ve heard from the
public is that they want more
diverse fishing close to town,”
Trout stocked in Central
Montana come from the Big
Spring Trout Hatchery located
southeast of Lewistown at the
headwaters of Spring Creek.
Warmer water fish come
from other Montana hatcheries,
such as Miles City or Fort Peck.
Post-stocking survival rates
can be extremely variable,
“If habitat conditions are
right and transportation goes
well, the fish can do very well.
On a rough guess, if we plant
20,000 largemouth bass, for
example, we could end up with
6,000 adult fish to winter over
to the next year,” he explained.
Much goes into the decision
of what fish, and how many of
them, to stock. Fish, Wildlife
and Parks policy, Smith said, is
not to stock flowing water, so as
not to disrupt natural popula-
tions of fish. For lakes, ponds
and reservoirs, stocking plans
depend on the end goal for each
body of water.
Upper and Lower Carter
Ponds are traditionally two of
the most productive trout reser-
voirs in Central Montana.
For many years, they have
gained statewide acclaim for
producing big, chunky rainbow
trout. That changed a few years
ago, however, after bluegill were
illegally introduced into the
ponds. As the bluegill grew in
population, the trout took a hit.
The ponds were eventually
drained and then treated in 2015
to remove all fish. Smith said so
far the treatment appears to be
successful. In 2016 FWP stocked
trout in a mix of different sizes,
including some larger fish in the
10-12 inch range. This year an
additional 4,500 trout will be
added to the mix.
Smith said the long-term
plan is to manage the upper
pond and as grow-and-take type
fishery and the lower pond as
more of a trophy trout pond,
with some different regulations
geared to growing bigger trout.
Ackley Lake near Hobson,
was stocked two years ago with
5,000 tiger muskie, along with
its normal 45,000 rainbow trout.
There have already been some
reports of muskie, in the 16-20
inch size, being caught at the
reservoir. But it will be a while
before any of them reach the 40
inches, which is the minimum
size at which they can be kept.
Until they reach that size, the
muskie must be released back
into the reservoir.
The muskie were put in the
reservoir to control the sucker
population, which has been an
ongoing problem. Tiger muskie
are sterile and will not repro-
duce, so there is no risk of them
taking over the reservoir. Tiger
Muskie were introduced into
Deadman’s Basin several years
ago and it continues to be a
popular fishery for trout and
Big Casino Creek Reservoir
Another reservoir seeing
some changes is Big Casino
Creek Reservoir south of Lewis-
town. Largemouth bass and
crappie were stocked in 2015.
The crappie were of various
sizes, while the bass stocking
included 5,000 2-inchers.
Smith is hopeful it will be a
good step toward diversifying
the fishing opportunities in the
“We may end up introducing
tiger muskie here to control the
suckers, but first I want to see if
the bass predator fishery can be
established,” Smith said.
The reservoir is a bit on the
cold side for bass, and Smith
wonders if this will be an issue.
“In the early 2000s, walleye
were stocked there, but the
turnover rate (rate of cold water
coming into the reservoir from
Casino Creek) was likely the
reason it didn’t establish,” Smith
Smith said the bass stocked a
couple of years ago should be
reaching catchable size now,
and he is hopeful this fishery
can be returned to an angler’s
Winnett area reservoirs
Smith said anglers heading
east of Lewistown should find
some good fishing in areas of
the Breaks and at Petrolia Reser-
Petrolia will continue to be
stocked with 20,000 walleye
and has decent numbers of
perch. There is also the opportu-
nity to get into some nice pike.
One reservoir near Winnett
that might not be as productive
this season is Yellow Water.
Smith said that reservoir has
high numbers of carp and suck-
ers, which compete with trout
for food. However, stocking of
North of Winnett, the Blood
and Dry Blood reservoirs are
expected to be good bets for
largemouth bass, and Dry Blood
should be good for crappie.
Jake’s Reservoir has sauger and
perch and Drag Creek Reservoir
is the best bet for bluegill.
Smith said War Horse Reser-
voir northwest of Winnett was a
popular fishery in the 1970s and
has had good water levels again
in recent years. In surveying the
reservoir, the FWP found places
with water depths of 18 feet.
Smith said it will be stocked
with 20,000 largemouth bass
To learn more about Central
Montana’s fisheries, be sure to
pick up a copy of the Region 4
Pond Fishing Guide.
saturday, april 1, 2017
Central Montana Fishing Guide
Denton, MT • 406-567-3035
on the way to your
favorite fishing hole for a
meal or your favorite beverage.
Stop in at the Shade Tree
Local reservoirs offer variety of opportunities
Largemouth bass can be
found in a handful of res-
ervoirs in Petroleum
Photo by Jacques Rutten